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Here’s Why All Dogs Go To Heaven

1 Dec

Do any of you remember that Disney movie “All Dogs Go to Heaven”? Short synopsis: Charlie B. Barkin, a trampy german shepherd, gets into some bad gambling debts which land him into  trouble with an evil dog villain called Carface Carruthers and he ends up double crossed, and dead.  He finds himself in heaven by default, since All Dogs Go To Heaven. He cons his way back to earth because he wants to make good on his debt, teaming up with his old buddy Itchy, a paranoid,  hyper-active dachshund who helps to avenge the wrong done to Charlie by the despicable pitbull Carruthers.

Along the line, he rescues a girl called Anne-Marie from the clutches of Carface, who had been using her ability to talk to animals to predict the outcome of races. Charlie is then tempted with the idea of using Ann-Marie for the same nefarious purpose, but then he catches feelings and decides to give the poor little human girl a chance at liberty.

The premise of the whole movie is the statement made by the heavenly Whippet who guards the Pearly Gates , who says that all dogs go to heaven because “Dogs are naturally kind”. But the movie is quite the opposite, with all the dogs being slimy, skeevy portrayals of a stereotypical human criminal underclass. The only “naturally kind” person in the movie is Anne Marie, a human, who is finally the one to reform Charlie enough for him to be sent back to heaven. Even for Disney, the racial and colonial undertones are well, overtones. This movie was made in 1989 but you can see the same message being played out in the Narnia series, where it takes a bunch of “human” children to whip a kingdom of animals into an era of order, peace and prosperity. All you need to do is substitute the word animals with the word savages or natives, and hey presto, the racist truth.  Because what are savages but sub-human? And what does  the word sub-human basically denote? Something that is less than human, that is animal.

Children’s cartoons are now allowed to convey the vocabulary that mainstream media has been injuncted from by various human  rights groups. A subversive message of intellectual superiority disguised as brightly coloured and  digitally enhanced visuals. To buttress this argument, let’s try to answer the question why most cartoon characters are based around animals, or mythical creatures, or anything that is basically not human?  Because even though these characters  are human stereotypes, it would land these companies into a world of hurt if they showed them for what they really, truly are. Imagine if the crows from Dumbo, or King Louie from the Jungle Book had been portrayed as human rather than animal? Or lets figure out Shrek, hmmm….an angry Ogre with a Scottish accent?  Who wants equal rights? No, no, that’s not imperialist at all!  And of course we don’t blame Aladdin for the fact that EVERYONE confuses a man in some sort of turban for a terrorist these days. Doesn’t matter that the Sultan of Agrabah looked less like a militant  islamist and more like a sweet happy Sikh who just wanted his daughter to hold her own once he wasn’t around to look after her.

Anyway, All Dogs Go to Heaven got it right and it also got it wrong. It said that all dogs are naturally kind, but then it didn’t show any dogs that were naturally kind, and that’s why the movie bombed, I think.  It couldn’t cash in the check that the title wrote out in such a bold font. It took something that is intrinsically true of canine nature, and then had to subvert it to human nature.

So here’s why I think All Dogs Go To Heaven. Yes, it is because they are naturally kind.  Dogs are kinder than children. A child may make torture another child because he/she is bored and doesn’t know any better, but a dog is incapable of doing so.  The emotion of Schadenfreude: delight in another’s misfortune, is completely alien to the canine species as a whole, and if that’s not a ticket to the Pearly Gates, or Moksha, or Nirvana, I don’t know what is.

Even though I’ve waxing eloquent on the virtues of dogs for two pages or more, I need to add this one last thing. I’ve had a dog every single day of my waking life. The day I was born, our dog Ringo, a very slobbery Boxer decided to make his way up to heaven. Then there was our needy Irish Setter, Red (yeah he was red so we named him Red, god what an annoying animal) and then Gina who adopted a goat, and Buster, a bull terrier who used to get such bad lockjaw that you had to throw a pail of water before he’d let go of any poor stray animal, and Milo, a Labrador who liked to eat eggshells and plastic bags, and Nelson, another Boxer, who likes to chase butterfly shadows, and Stooey, our Dachshund who falls in love with every new maid who comes to work in our house, (by the way, Stooey was the only one at my Dad’s funeral, who’d bark at his picture and wag his tail) and Lisa my Basset Hound who will kiss you only if she’s in a good mood, to Chamko, my pariah, who makes strange shrieking sounds every time the husband parks his car, to Biggie my German Shepherd, who is, well an ass, who I had to torture everyday when he was two months old with an IV two times a day for three weeks because he had parvovirus, and who had a frickin’ seizure on the vet’s table, and who still jumps onto my bed three times a day to say hi. Phew.

How could dogs not go to heaven? If a place does so exist.  Or if you believe in spiritual evolution, then I hope that my last incarnation is that of a dog, preferably a Rottweiler, so at least before I die, I can literally bite someone in the ass!

Inception: Reliving the Dream

16 Sep

Inception Poster

The husband and I went to see Inception just before it got bumped off its long and successful two week run at Chandigarh movie theatres.  We went for an 11 o’clock show and were amazed to find that the hall was chock-a-block full of discerning gabrus and mutiars who had chosen Christopher Nolan’s Chuang Tzu butterfly moment over their standard fare of Hello Darling, Lafangey Parindey and Ik Kudi Punjab Di.

Chuang Tzu Dreaming of a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of Chuang Tzu
Chuang Tzu Dreaming of a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of Chuang Tzu

We settled in for some spectacular visuals and a big tub of caramelized popcorn which the husband held on to like it was our baby, or rather, his baby. We were not altogether disappointed , that is a fact. Rotten Tomatoes describes Inception as “Smart, innovative, and thrilling- that rare summer blockbuster that succeeds viscerally as well as intellectually.” But I think it’s better described as M.C. Escher on crack.

M.C. Escher's Relativity
M.C. Escher’s Relativity

I say this firstly because Inception explores the idea of a man (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb) who makes a living by stealing information from peoples’ minds through their dreams. And secondly, because this particular exercise of dream theft apparently entails the creation of complex dream architecture, i.e., the only way to infiltrate a person’s deep subconscious is to create a dream within a dream with a dream, ad nauseam..really.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s rag-tag bunch of dream bandits  (Joseph Gordon-Levitt,Ellen Page, Dileep Rao, Tom Hardy) get ready to perpetrate the act of “Inception”- or planting an idea so deep into a person’s subconscious that the dreamer would never cotton on to the fact that the idea wasn’t his or her own to begin with. For this, they have to create different dreams within dreams, or Escher-like “levels”- in order to successfully infiltrate demi-antagonist Cillian Murphy’s mind- and plant the idea of Murphy disintegrating his father’s vast business empire. For this they are funded by Ken Watanabe, Murphy’s corporate rival. Into all of this is thrown Marion Cotillard’s character, Mal, who as Cobb’s dead wife persists in haunting his dreams, and sabotaging his plans throughout the film.

When you try to weave such an intricate web, as with Inception, there are bound to be a few loose threads just waiting to be unraveled. And so as a peremptory measure, Christopher Nolan has cunningly peppered his current cinematic magnum opus with so many shock and awe CG stunt visuals, that the audience is momentarily too dumbfounded to find those loose threads, let alone unravel them.

But as a serial lucid dreamer, I must say, that I sat there looking at Christopher Nolan’s colossal dream world folding into itself, at  a world freezing at mid-explosion, at mirrors becoming bridges and archways, at dreams goons turning violently on  anything that disturbs the REM mind, at Joseph Gordon Levitt using a clever M.C. Escher stairway ploy to kill a dream goon, and I thought, “Hmm, I’ think I’ve dreamt better…”

Which brings me to the real reason of writing this post-My dreams. Also your dreams, his dreams, her dreams, their dreams, our dreams. Like I said earlier, I’m a lucid dreamer. That means that my dreams are as real to me as a sense of entitlement is to say, to a small town princeling, or Paris Hilton, or Cadillac the dog.

Here’s a good example of lucid dreaming:  It is said that Giuseppe Tartini, an Italian composer and violinist, dreamed that the Devil appeared to him and asked to be his servant. In his dream, the Devil played a beautiful sonata that enraptured Tartini. When the composer awoke he immediately jotted down the sonata, desperately trying to recapture what he had heard in the dream. Despite the sonata being successful with his audiences, Tartini lamented that the piece was still far from what he had heard in his dream. According to some sources, Tartini said that what he had written was- “So inferior to what I had heard, that if I could have subsisted on other means, I would have broken my violin and abandoned music forever.”

I believe that our dreams far surpass anything that we can imagine in waking life. And compared to real dreams, Christopher Nolan’s stunning visuals are just contrived quixotic landscapes -with deflated objects derived from weird lurid constructivism,  and then pumped full of CG goodness, like a Twinkie is pumped full of some moist, glossy filling- leaving everyone just a little bit nauseous.

What I want to say is that in my opinion, Inception might be a breakthrough as far as the imagination goes, but not as far as dreams go. Our dreams far outstrip our imagination, and that is why we wake up with a sense of astonishment and wonder every time we remember our dreams. Our dreams are better than movies, and most definitely better than movies about dreams. So next time you have a lucid dream, don’t sell it short, see how awesome your  own dreamscape is (or isn’t),compared to what’s already out there.

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Staying Alive: An Ode To John Travolta’s 1970’s “Tooeii”

19 Feb

Movie Review: John Travolta in Staying Alive

This month the TV’s been showing a lot of John Travolta dancing movies like Grease, Saturday Night Fever and Staying Alive. I was channel surfing last night when a flash of red leotards arrested my attention.  I was startled to find that the God’s magnum opus butt I was staring at belonged to none other than John Travolta doing some really bad modern dance sequences. Staying Alive starts where Saturday Night Fever left off with Tony Manero struttin’ his stuff on Broadway hoping to catch his big break.

Finola Hughes in Staying Alive

Tony is now a professional dance instructor in Manhattan who has a chance to get a part in the hottest new Broadway musical out there- “Satan’s Alley”. He is torn between his best friend-with-benefits who looks a hell of a lot like Jennifer Paige (remember that song “it’s just a little crush…”) and this buck-toothed British chick whose name I just found out is Finola Hughes. But to her credit, she really is truly graceful in the dance sequences, so is friend- with-benefits.

I thought that Sylvester Stallone was a strange choice for director, I mean he doesn’t exactly come across as someone with a lot of balletic expertise. Yes, balletic, it’s a word, look it up. Anyway, the movie has a lot of the same charm as it’s disco driven predecessor, with lots of headbands, shiny red lipstick, feathery bangs and parti-colored leotards and legwarmers.  It’s lovely to watch Tony in tight jeans and a short leather jacket loping along rain drenched New York streets, with the movie’s tacky but award-winning soundtrack, which consists mostly of songs by the Bee Gees and some by Frank Stallone, Sly’s brother. Staying Alive picks up six years after where Saturday Night left off, with Tony Monero (John Travolta) a down on his luck dance instructor trying to to make it big on Broadway.

Finola Hughes and John Travolta

Tony, being the lovable sleazebag that he is, treats his too forgiving kind-of-girlfriend Jackie (If this movie were made now, she would be his “It’s Complicated” on Facebook), like crap. Jackie is in the chorus of a big Broadway show, where Tony runs into our buck-toothed British beauty who is wearing the world’s supply of shiny red lipstick.  True to his slutty self, Tony sleeps with Laura, tells her he thinks she’s awesome, to which Laura blithely replies that she’s quite done, thank you. At which point,Tony, after giving Laura lots of gaalis,  goes back to his ever faithful Jackie, who frankly could teach the Indian naari a thing or two about being a door mat.

Satan's Alley, Check Out that Extra!

The most deliciously  bad, absolutely tackiest part of the film is the horrendously funny play “Satan’s Alley”, in which all three pivotal characters  dance. Bright lights, lots of fake smoke and the ugliest pseudo S&M costumes worn by all the extras. No complaints about Tony’s outfit though, you really have to appreciate all the training he did with Sly Stallone for that body.

The movie was a commercial success, raking in about 65 million in the box office, and the soundtrack was nominated for one Golden Globe and a whole bunch of Grammys. Critics felt however that Staying Alive lacked the earthiness and organic characters of Saturday Night Fever.

I loved Staying Alive for its terrible clothes, its wooden but strangely  still interesting characters and the lovely New York scenes. And of course, John Travolta’s 1970’s bum in tight jeans strutting all over the place.

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